In October of 1893, Charles Bathgate Beck died and left to charity a New York real estate fortune estimated at $5 million. The “alleged” children of Charles’ bachelor uncle, Andrew Bathgate, and his housekeeper, Delia Malloy, were specifically disinherited but contested the will anyway, and the legal wrangle went on for years.

But Anthony Comstock instigated a sideshow that added more color to the proceedings. After specifying several bequests, the will of Charles Beck read, “All the rest, residue and remainder of my estate I give and bequeath to the following named institutions and societies in the city of New York in equal proportions, share and share alike, to wit: Columbia College, the Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Hospital, the Society for the Prevention of Crime, and the New York Hospital, to have and to hold to them and each of their successors and assigns forever.”

Comstock insisted that Beck, when he listed “the Society for the Prevention of Crime” led by the Rev. Dr. Charles Henry Parkhurst, really meant the Society for the Suppression of Vice led by Anthony Comstock, and that Beck’s attorney had listed the other society in error. Hence Comstock was in line for a bequest of more than $200,000.

In November of 1896, the court ruled in favor of Parkhurst.


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